Little Village would like to take this opportunity to remind local eaters and shoppers: There’s still a Farmers Market in Iowa City! Yes, even in the ice-capped tundra, you can still find local vegetables, knitted crafts, purses, handmade soaps and more every Saturday from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m at the Sycamore Mall (1660 Sycamore Street).
Not only that, but on the second and fourth Sundays of the month through March, you can also find a Farmers Market at the Johnson County Fairgrounds from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
In just it’s first year of operation, the Sycamore Mall’s Farmers Market is surprisingly bustling.
“It’s been going well — we were especially busy in the weeks heading up to Christmas,” said Cassidy Bell, Farmers Market Supervisor. “We’ve been happy to see lots of regulars from the summer market, plus new customers from the people who walk the mall in the mornings.”
Mary Zahradnik, a Sycamore vendor, has apples, onions, potatoes, apple butter, apple chips and garlic on offer. “Right now, most of what we have is out of storage,” she explained, “but we expect to harvest carrots and greens next week.”
A familiar face from the downtown Farmers Market, Andy Tygrett of Oak Hill Acres is becoming a fixture at the Winter Market as well. Along with potatoes, honey, popcorn and eggs, his customers can expect greens and herb plants for sale as the weather warms.
In collaboration with the market, Sycamore Mall’s Imagination Station has planned some extra family fun. An “Oodles of Noodles” event on Jan. 18 will include a puppet show, noodle obstacle course and food sampling featuring Zaza’s Pastas. On Jan. 25, market-goers can catch a Dragon Dance Parade to celebrate the Chinese New Year with stories, egg roll samples and a puppet parade.
On Sundays at the Johnson County Fairgrounds Winter Farmers Market, located in Building C, there’s an even wider variety of local goodies for sale. Shoppers can browse a selection of locally-raised meat, produce (I got a stalk of brussels sprouts — sweet!), baked goods, jewelry, handmade greeting cards and custom embroidery.
Along with these more expected treasures, the market also features unique finds like knitted punk cats from Pajama Love (decked out with chainmail piercings and armor courtesy of Wandering Mail). Mushroom hunters can get ready for the season, and please the mushroom gods, by taking to the woods armed with morel-topped, hand-carved walking sticks and canes from “Mr. Stix.”
Brenda Christner, Business Manager for the Johnson County Agricultural Association, said there were “a thousand and one” reasons for continuing a local market into the winter months. “These people are entrepreneurs, trying to develop their businesses,” she said. “We give them an opportunity, at a reasonable rate, to show off their talents and offer them to the community.”
Christner adds that there are still booths available at the Sunday market; interested vendors can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Johnson County Fairgrounds Winter Market was organized when it appeared unlikely that the City of Iowa City would hold a winter market. Although the City did move forward with the Sycamore mall market, it’s a bonus for all local-loving shoppers that both markets are going strong this season!
Winter Farmers Market Schedules
Sycamore Mall Winter Farmers Market
Every Saturday until April 26 – 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Johnson County Fairgrounds Winter Farmers Market
Second and fourth Sundays of the month, through March – 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Correction (1/17/14): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Sycamore Winter Farmers Market runs through March. The market actually runs through April 26. Little Village regrets this error.